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Listen to the podcast of the Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture given by Dr Séverine Autesserre on 4 May

Peaceland suggests a new explanation for why international peace interventions often fail to reach their full potential. Based on several years of ethnographic research in conflict zones around the world, it demonstrates that everyday elements – such as the expatriates’ social habits and usual approaches to understanding their areas of operation – strongly influence peacebuilding effectiveness.

Individuals from all over the world and all walks of life share numerous practices, habits, and narratives when they serve as interveners in conflict zones. These common attitudes and actions enable foreign peacebuilders to function in the field, but they also result in unintended consequences that thwart international efforts. Certain expatriates follow alternative modes of thinking and doing, often with notable results, but they remain in the minority. Through an in-depth analysis of the interveners’ everyday life and work, this book proposes innovative ways to better help host populations build a sustainable peace.

About the speaker

Séverine Autesserre is an Associate Professor of Political Science, specializing in international relations and African studies, at Barnard College, Columbia University (USA). Dr Autesserre works on civil wars, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and African politics. Dr Autesserre has written two award-winning books and a series of articles. Her latest book, Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention (Cambridge University Press, 2014), examines how everyday practices, habits, and narratives influence the effectiveness of peacebuilding interventions on the ground. Her previous book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press, 2010), focuses on local violence and international intervention in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before becoming an academic, Dr Autesserre worked for humanitarian and development agencies in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua and India. She holds a post-doctorate from Yale University (2007), a PhD in political science from New York University (2006), and master’s degrees in international relations and political science from Columbia University (2000) and Science-Po (France, 1999). For more details on her research, see